Mind the Gap is an SSAT collection of essays from partners and schools in our network on the development of character, non-cognitive skills, mindfulness and well-being.
In one of these Peter Thomas, head of President Kennedy School, Coventry (which is ‘outstanding’ in every Ofsted category) describes how his school has applied these ideas. Being ‘outstanding’, he notes, ‘is not what gets us out of bed in the morning.’
The school has 45% of its students eligible for free school meals and 40% with English as an additional language.
It places great importance on the development of ‘belonging’ to the school community and the experiences it brings; this breeds confidence and self-belief.
Learning much from Birmingham University’s Jubilee Centre, which focuses on character, virtues and values, the school maintains that character means ‘thinking, acting and feeling in ways that are beneficial to yourself and others; doing the right thing, at the right time, in the right way.’
Character sees you through life’s challenges and opportunities like nothing else we can provide in school
Parents also need to understand this, so the school offers regular opportunities for students, parents and teachers to take part in meaningful reflection, much of it informal:
- the PE teacher talking to the student about the difficult refereeing decision and why it was important that he was respectful
- the parent encouraging the student to get involved in public speaking despite the nerves
- the maths teacher referring to determination in their praise for the student answering the tricky maths question
- the student taking the decision to set higher targets because they want to strive for excellence.
Most importantly, President Kennedy School is working to establish clear mechanisms to encourage and stimulate reflection in a more formal way. Younger students write reflective essays and give a reflective speech to their own parents, ‘showcasing’ their learning at various times in the year.
These events are very powerful, notes Peter: ‘tissues are often needed for parents attending who simply cannot believe their children are capable of such deep reflection about themselves and their achievements.’
The development of character now takes place across the school, although the headteacher concedes, ‘we have made no more than a sound start.’
Download a copy of Mind the Gap.